Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Most cases of acute sinusitis don't need treatment because they're caused by viruses that also cause the common cold. Self-care techniques are usually the only treatment needed to speed recovery and ease symptoms.

Treatments to relieve symptoms

Your doctor may recommend treatments to help relieve sinusitis symptoms, including:

  • Saline nasal spray, which you spray into your nose several times a day to rinse your nasal passages.
  • Nasal corticosteroids. These nasal sprays help prevent and treat inflammation. Examples include fluticasone (Flonase), mometasone (Nasonex), budesonide (Rhinocort Aqua), triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ) and beclomethasone (Beconase AQ).
  • Decongestants. These medications are available in over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription liquids, tablets and nasal sprays. OTC oral decongestants include Sudafed, Actifed and Drixoral. Nasal sprays include oxymetazoline (Afrin, others). These medications are generally taken for only a few days at most. Otherwise they can cause the return of more severe congestion (rebound congestion).
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others). Aspirin has been linked with Reye's syndrome, so use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics usually aren't needed to treat acute sinusitis.

  • Antibiotics won't help when acute sinusitis is caused by a viral or fungal infection.
  • Most cases of bacterial sinusitis improve without antibiotics.
  • Antibiotic treatment is generally needed only if the infection is severe, recurrent or persistent.

Antibiotics used to treat acute sinusitis caused by a bacterial infection include amoxicillin (Amoxil, others), doxycycline (Doryx, Monodox, others) or the combination drug trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, others). If the infection doesn't go away or if the sinusitis comes back, your doctor may try a different antibiotic.

If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics, it's critical to take the entire course of medication. Generally, this means you'll need to take them for 10 to 14 days — even after your symptoms get better. If you stop taking them early, your symptoms may come back.

Antifungal medications

Rarely, acute sinusitis is caused by a fungal infection, which can be treated with antifungal medication. The dose of medication — as well as how long you'll need to take it — depends on the severity of your infection and how quickly your symptoms improve.

Immunotherapy

If allergies are contributing to your sinusitis, allergy shots (immunotherapy) that help reduce the body's reaction to specific allergens may help treat your symptoms.

Jul. 02, 2013